Sunday, March 6, 2011

Race Report: B&A Trail Half Marathon

I went into this race knowing my legs would not be fresh.  This was truly meant to be a test to see what I could do in a situation where most would give up.  My total mileage for the week including this race ended up being 97 miles, so my legs were anything but ready.

However, if I could somehow maintain a "reasonable" half marathon pace based on my training paces and recent races on such a heavy load, then I know I could handle sub-2:40 pace at Boston.  So with those thoughts in mind, I drove down to Severna Park for the B&A Trail Half Marathon, a race put on by the Annapolis Striders on the relatively flat paved B&A Trail.

During my warmup, my legs felt ok, and my left ankle and foot were not complaining.  I was a far cry from last week in terms of freshness.  My "A" goal was to run a 1:15:40 and get ranked by Washington Run Report for the winter season.  My "B" goal was just to PR.  I knew I had a shot at top 3 and maybe a win depending on who showed up to the race.

At the 7:30 AM start, we had overcast skies, a slight breeze, temperatures in the mid 50s, and a very light drizzle for most of the race.  Overall, the weather was favorable.  As soon as the gun went off, 4 or 5 runners darted out ahead of me.  Some of them had marathon bibs on, others had half bibs.  I assumed that this was not going to be an Olympic Trials qualifying attempt and that they either went out too fast, or were all running the half.  Immediately at mile 1, I could already feel it in my legs.

Mile 1: 5:56

Based on how I felt, a 1:15:40 seemed unlikely.  I needed to be closer to the mid 5:40s from the get go, but that was ok.  I had no intention on forcing what wasn't there.  Of course now I had to decide how exactly I was going to run 12 more miles being that I was already tired.  I passed a couple of runners and ended up in what I assumed was third.  One runner in white was far off in the distance, but within striking range.  The overall leader was no where to be found.  He bolted off the line like he was in a different world completely and I never saw him again.

I missed the 2 mile marker, but came through mile 3 in 11:38 total, for a 2 mile average of 5:49.  I think the third mile was faster than the second.  I was slowly gaining ground on the second place runner.  Thanks to a support bike that was alongside me, I heard over his radio when the lead runner passed the first water stop.  It took me probably a minute or two more to hit that same stop so clearly, I was not going to catch the leader.  Although I was closing on the second place runner, I still felt way too awful this early in the race.  I tried not to concern myself with the 10 miles I had to go and just focused on catching up to second place.

Mile 4: 5:54

Somewhere after mile 4, I finally caught that runner.  I alternated between closing the gap for 20-30 seconds and backing off just a little for 10-20 seconds.  I didn't really feel much worse picking it up, but I was still worried that I would run out of gas way too early.  Rather than stay behind the runner I caught, I just decided to pass him and take the lead when I finally closed the gap.  I figured with how bad I felt, I had nothing to lose by being aggressive.  If I was going to blow up before the end, my fate was sealed before I even walked up to the start line.  He stuck with me for a little while but was clearly struggling, and had been fading back to me since his hard early start.

Mile 5: 5:58

At this point I started to notice that I was not getting anymore tired than I already was and my legs were not getting any heavier.  Life still sucked, but things were not getting worse.  I kept telling myself to just keep the pace under 6 minutes per mile and take it a mile at a time.

Mile 6: 5:54

This was an out and back course and I knew we would be turning around soon.  It was roughly around here that the other runner with me started fading.  I knew I would most likely be running alone for the rest of the race.  My exhaustion level was still steady.  Mile 7 and the turnaround presented the only hill of the course.  It really was not all that impressive.  The downhill on the way out did not do a whole lot for me and the uphill was not taxing.  At least I got to see the lead runner who had a very sizable lead on me.  Third and Fourth place were still in my vicinity but I had a comfortable lead on them.

I missed the 7 mile mark, but came through mile 8 in 11:47, for roughly a 5:53 average.  At this point, I was starting to get used to how terrible I had felt for the whole race.  It had never gotten worse and my body finally just accepted it.  I could feel myself picking up the pace.  It also helped that I got to see the rest of the field.  The cheers were certainly helpful!  That is what makes out and back courses interesting.

Mile 9: 5:48

One of my fastest miles of the race.  It felt ok.  I still groaned at the thought of running another 4.1 miles but kept telling myself to just worry about the next mile.

Mile 10: 5:41

By now most of the pack had thinned out and I only had sparse crowd support at the water stops and such.  I never really "need" the extra support, I always consider it a bonus and it is for situations just like this.  I still had a 5K to go and crowd support or not, if I could hold on, I would get second overall and a PR.

Mile 11: 5:34

I missed the remaining mile markers.  They were shaped like rabbits, rather small, and sat low to the ground.  Though it was unique, it made them hard to see.  Of course, I was completely out of it mentally; I probably would have missed giant signs at eye level at that point.

As far as pace goes, I know I did not back down and finished hard.  Over the last 2.1, I ran a 12:01 for a 5:43 average.  I crossed the line in 1:16:13 and 2nd overall.  I was spent, my legs were sore, but I felt awesome.

My ankle and foot were fine and I just PRed by almost 2 minutes at the end of a 97 mile week.  I actually negative split the race because somehow, I got stronger as the race progressed.  I know the slow start is the reason why 1:15:40 slipped by, but I'll have more shots at that in the future on fresher legs.

For my efforts I received a rather nice plaque, and $50 straight cash.  This is the first race ever where I have received a cash prize.  If I got anything of monetary value before, it was always gift certificates.  The race cost $50, so I ended up breaking even.  Not too bad, 2 weeks in a row, two PRs, and two free races!

Now that I'm still alive, it's time to take the next 2-3 days easy.  Next week will still be a 90+ mile week, but I'm only racing a 5K (substantially less taxing than 10 milers and half marathons).  I may cut out a workout from this week and substitute easy miles.  I need to reward myself at least a little bit, I've kicked ass the past two weekends!  With this race out of the way, I can almost see Boston on the horizon.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job congrats. WOW a cash award. You will have to be in the elite runner category if you keep winning cash & keep getting those PR's. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to Boston.